SEOUL, North Korea's propaganda outlets stepped up their demand Wednesday for South Korea to lift sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its 2010 deadly torpedo attack against a South Korean warship, calling them an "obstacle" to advancing inter-Korean relations.

"It is important to get rid of legal and institutional devices that stand in the way for improvement in inter-Korean relations," Uriminzokkiri, the North's external propaganda website, said. "It is so when we talk about the May 24 steps."

It claimed that the sanctions were based on a "fabrication aimed at escalating confrontations and a crisis of war by blocking exchanges and cooperation altogether."

The May 24 steps refer to the punitive measures announced by the conservative Lee Myung-bak government in May 2010 in the wake of the North's deadly torpedo attack on a warship that killed 46 sailors on board.

Under the measures, almost all cross-border contacts and exchanges came to a halt but observers say the sanctions have been rendered invalid given that there are already multi-layered global sanctions and that Seoul has taken a "flexible" approach in enforcing them.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha recently caused a stir by saying that the government is reviewing lifting the 2010 sanctions.

She later walked the remarks back, however, when critics asked the government to demand an apology from the North first with regard to the attack. The North has denied any involvement in the incident.

The U.S. weighed in on the controversy as well, with President Donald Trump saying that South Korea cannot lift sanctions on the North without Washington's approval.

Tongil Sinbo, the North's external propaganda weekly, also called on South Korea to lift the May 24 sanctions, which hinder all inter-Korean contacts and exchanges.

"It is very tragic to see such a legal and institutional device in place even today when the relations between the North and the South have entered into a new phase of development," it said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency